You might know Venissa Valenzuela as PSAR’s membership manager. She joined PSAR on July 12, 2004, making this her 10th year with us.
But did you know that Venissa is an identical twin? Venissa and Eliza are sisters to their older sister Jessica and younger brother Joel. They have lived in Imperial Beach their whole life. Venissa’s parents, Henry and Virginia Santellanes, along with her twin sister and Venissa’s husband Armando have been working at the South Bay Union School District for many years.
Venissa and Armando recently renewed their vows to each other on May 21, 2014. Through nine years of rough, bumpy roads that included a separation they had an intervention with God and decided to dedicate their new vows into living their life and family with God.
“A spiritual foundation in the only way for us to make a marriage work,” said Venissa. “God is good and He makes all the difference.”
The Valenzuela family attends Ocean View Church on Palm Avenue. Armando sings in the choir and their son Nathaniel, age 14, greets visitors and directs traffic in the church parking lot. Their daughter Aribella, age 7, goes to the Nestor Language Academy, a dual-emersion program within the South Bay Union School District. She also is the first Valenzuela in her husband’s family who is fully bilingual.
The tale of Venissa’s and Armando’s love life is more of a tale like Romeo and Juliet. Going to rival high schools -- Mar Vista for Venissa and Southwest for Armando -- they fell in love. Knowing each other since elementary school, they formed a bond like no other. In high school both dated other people and each other occasionally. Somehow they always came back to each other. Eventually, they got it right and are now happy together.
In high school, Venissa ran varsity track and soccer, as well as played basketball. Her uniform number was 12, and with her swift running skills her team mates gave her the nickname “Forrest” from the movie Forest Gump. Loving the game of soccer starting at age nine, Venissa joined AYSO. Because of her speed and determination her AYSO team mates called her “Speedy Gonzales.”
From 1994 to 2004 Venissa and Armando worked at the same grocery store. After the labor strike of 2004 both left their jobs. During the 4 1/2-month strike that started in October 2004, more than 70,000 Southern California grocery store workers were out of work. Union officials with the United Food and Commercial Workers International estimated the strike cost the supermarket industry more than $1.5 billion in lost sales.
“Starting while I was in high school, I worked my way up to assistant manager for the Vons Service Deli,” said Venissa. “I was not in favor of the final settlement accepted by the labor union because it was less than what the stores first offered. After 10 years of service with Vons I was very disappointed and I didn’t want to go back.”
During the strike, a friend suggested she look into becoming a real estate agent. Another friend, a former employee of PSAR, said there was an opening at PSAR and suggested to Venissa that she should apply. Venissa realized that instead of becoming a real estate agent she was more suited to helping them and that this was the job she was looking for. “I was very fortunate and excited to get this job,” said Venissa. “I love the people, the members, the staff and most of all, I love helping people!
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Don’t forget to read next week’s story. Hint: He has worked in trucking, she as a hairstylist, now they serve PSAR members.